Daily Bible Reading

By the hand

But Peter said, “I don’t have any money for you. But I’ll give you what I have. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, get up and walk!”

Then Peter took the lame man by the right hand and helped him up. And as he did, the man’s feet and anklebones were healed and strengthened.

Acts 3:6-7 (NLT)

How many times have you heard of people praying, yet receiving nothing? How many times have you prayed and received nothing? Some people will keep on praying while others just give up. If God didn’t answer them the first time, why would He answer at all?

But what if all that was missing was a helping hand? What if all your prayer needed was a little extra boost from a friend or someone who cared enough to help you out?

Notice that, in this passage, the man wasn’t healed the instant Peter told him to get up and walk. Nor did the man get up on his own. Peter lifted him up and then strength came to his limbs.

Maybe you’re the one who needs the extra hand or maybe you’re the one who can give the extra hand. Either way, we shouldn’t let a little seemingly unanswered prayer stop us from receiving the things God has promised to us. A little extra help may be required to see it through. Don’t stop praying. Look to the next step. Maybe God is waiting on you to ask for a hand. Maybe God is leading you to lend a hand. Our own pride and selfishness could very well be the things that are preventing us from seeing more miracles.

Let’s not pull each other down, let’s lift each other up so we can all begin to walk, leap and praise God.

Daily Bible reading: Nehemiah 7-8, Acts 3

Daily Bible Reading

Share

We’re told all our lives that we need to share. Share your toys. Share your snacks. Share your room. Share the car. Share your office. Share, share, share. We’re told so often as we grow up that we have to share that when we’re all grown our response is often, oh good, I don’t have to share anymore. Sharing is something that we did because we had to not because we wanted to.

I believe that an attitude of generosity is something we could all use a little more of. I don’t necessarily mean in the way of finances, either. Money isn’t necessarily what someone in need actually needs.

The very first church in the Book of Acts grew by leaps and bounds in its first days. Was it because of the stellar preaching? I don’t think so. Many of those who joined up with the apostles had already seen and heard Jesus speak. I’m not sure anyone could teach better than Jesus. Was it because of the incredibly modern and up-to-date facilities? What facilities? They started with 120 people crammed in someone’s upper room. There was no church building to meet in.

Peter has just finished speaking his first message to the new church and here’s how the people responded:

Those who believed what Peter said were baptized and added to the church—about three thousand in all. They joined with the other believers and devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, sharing in the Lord’s Supper and in prayer.

A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. And all the believers met together constantly and shared everything they had. They sold their possessions and shared the proceeds with those in need. they worshipped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity—all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their group those who were being saved.

Acts 2:41-47 (NLT)

Note that they didn’t start all sorts of programs. There was no men’s ministry or women’s ministry or kid’s ministry. There were no outreach programs or missions teams. The church worked and lived together as a community and God did mighty things in their midst. Notice that nothing they did specifically added to their numbers. And each day the Lord added to their group those who were being saved. The church did their thing and God did His thing.

There have been moments in my Christian life when church looked like this description in Acts. We did all sorts of things with other church members. We did life together. We saw the miraculous and we saw our church grow. But that seems to be the exception, not the rule. I long to see my church as well as the Global Church live and grow together—without division and without selfishness.

Whether you attend a small church or a large church, this example in Acts can serve as something to strive for. They started with a modest 120 and grew by three thousand that first day! And from there their generosity grew along with their numbers.

The world is looking for community, what better way to find it than in the church?

Daily Bible reading: Nehemiah 4-6, Acts 2:14-47

Daily Bible Reading

Look!

It’s nice to have people around (if you’re a people person, anyway). It can make you feel important or somehow special to not only have people around, but to have people follow you. Once you get used to having people following you, hanging on your every word, it can be difficult to let that go. But that is exactly what John the Baptist did.

John, Jesus’ cousin, was only a few months older than Jesus. God commissioned him to go ahead of Jesus to proclaim the Messiah, the new King of the Jews, the Son of God. In doing this, John amassed followers—people who believed in his message and allowed John to baptise them in water. These people would follow him around and would help to collect even more followers.

Then Jesus’ time came.

John had a choice to make. He could cling to his followers and continue preparing the way for the Lord or he could do as he did and let go.

The following day, John was again standing with two of his disciples. As Jesus walked by, John looked at him and then declared, “Look! There is the Lamb of God!”

John 1:35-36 (NLT)

John knew that it wasn’t up to him to keep collecting disciples for himself, but rather to make disciples for Christ. He carried no animosity whatsoever toward his cousin and he willinging allowed his followers to go.

Then John’s two disciples turned and followed Jesus.

John 1:37 (NLT)

Just like that. John lost two followers and Jesus gained two.

Our Commission is the same a John’s—prepare the way for the Son of God and point Him out to any who will listen. But then the difficult part comes, when they’ve met Jesus, we need to let them go. I don’t mean to say that we introduce people to Jesus and then walk away, leaving them to struggle in their newfound faith. New believers need to be taught the Word of God. They need to learn how to be followers of Jesus. But once they have an understanding of the new life they have gained, we don’t get to “keep” them. They are no longer our followers, but Jesus’ followers.

Like John, we need to be able to point and say, “Look! There is the Lamb of God!” And then we need to allow those people to follow Christ, not us. It can be difficult sometimes when those people choose a direction we may not have chosen for them. John had probably grown close to Andrew and Peter as they followed him. It is quite possible that they were both followers and friends. Yet, when the time came, he did not hold them back, but pointed at Jesus. Look! John had done his work well because, without question, Andrew and Peter stepped away from John and into step with Jesus.

Daily Bible reading: 1 Kings 16-18, John 1:29-51

Daily Bible Reading

Don’t tempt me

I have a neurological condition which makes it better for myself—and everyone else around me—if I avoid eating gluten. I’m not allergic or anything, but I’m a happier person without it. But I love it. There is nothing like a giant bowl of fresh pasta dripping with butter and oozing with cheese. Thinking about this isn’t helpful. Especially when I’m hungry.

Now, before I go further, let me say that I am in no way trying to make a mockery of God’s Word, I’m just trying to simplify a few verses and, while this analogy may not be perfect, it does make sense.

We’re all able to be tempted. Jesus was tempted. He went out to the desert and fasted for the purpose of being tempted. In his life, I cannot imagine that anyone would have been tempted more. After all, if Satan could get Jesus to stumble, he’d win.

In our reading in Matthew, Jesus knows his time on earth is coming to a close. He knows the cross lies before him. He knows what is required of him. He knows it will be the most difficult thing any human being would ever have to endure in the entire history and future of mankind. He’s shared this with his disciples and Peter, tries to offer some encouragement.

But Peter took him aside and corrected him. “Heaven forbid, Lord,” he said. “This will never happen to you!”

Matthew 16:22 (NLT)

First of all, I find it amusing that Peter pulls Jesus aside for correction. In my mind, that’s like me taking Billy Graham aside and telling him he’s preached the salvation message wrong.

Jesus’ response is immediate.

Jesus turned to Peter and said, “Get away from me, Satan! You are a dangerous trap to me. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, and not from God’s.”

Matthew 16:23 (NLT)

I’m quite sure that the human side of Jesus would have loved nothing more than to accept Peter’s words. No, I’m Jesus. Of course this will never happen to me! But the God side of him knew exactly what was going on.

It’s like someone offering me that dripping, oozing bowl of pasta knowing I would truly enjoy it in the moment. But that’s all. The benefit is momentary. The negative effects last much longer than the initial pleasure. The intent was good. It was for my benefit and enjoyment, but the understanding of the full situation was lacking.

Jesus knew that he could have denied the cross, that he could have turned his back on all of humanity for his own comfort and pleasure. This is what Peter saw. He saw the momentary relief, but not the full picture.

Had Jesus fallen into this temptation, the lasting effects would have been eternal. There would be no re-do. No chance to try again. Did Jesus believe that Peter was Satan? Of course not In the previous verses, the Holy Spirit reveals to Peter exactly who Jesus is and Jesus goes on to commission Peter to build the Church. Peter was not of Satan, but the temptation was. Peter wasn’t able to see the bigger picture in that moment.

In all of this, what I’m trying to say is this: look at the grander scheme. Look beyond a single moment. Every decision we make has the potential for a lasting effect. Will you settle for momentary pleasure or will you deny yourself the small pleasure for a greater benefit?

Daily Bible reading: Exodus 4-6, Matthew 16

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Chosen One

“This is my Son, my Chosen One, listen to him!”

Luke 9:35 (ESV)

The voice of God coming in a cloud, while not a common occurrence, happened multiple times throughout the scriptures. It usually meant something big.

In this text, Peter, James, and John have been with Jesus up on a mountain praying. The Spirit of God came upon Jesus and he shone brightly. Not only did Jesus dazzle in appearance, but Moses and Elijah showed up to the party. Now, I’m not sure if Peter, James, and John actually recognised Moses and Elijah (after all, there were no photos or video podcasts kicking around), but the recognised that these were men of great importance and wanted to honour them.

Then a cloud came.

God’s voice spoke through the cloud and commanded that the men present follow Jesus. When the cloud lifted, Moses and Elijah had gone along their way leaving Jesus to stand alone on the mountain.

Even I am unsure of the completely significance of this text, but what I see is God showing men deserving of great respect and honour and then commanding us to listen to Jesus.

All around us are mighty men and women of God. Should we listen to them? Certainly. God, after all, was the one who set up the authority of the local church. We need to honour and respect those in the five-fold ministry (pastors, teachers, prophets, evangelists, apostles), but not at the expense of listening to Jesus.

Look to Jesus, God’s Chosen One. Listen to him!

Daily Bible reading: Judges 10-11, Luke 9:1-36